wheelsup1 President Obama ran on a promise to “restore America’s standing in the world,” and after just a few months in office, it sure looked like he was on course to deliver. During Obama’s first year in office, worldwide approval of U.S. leadership rose from 34{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} (34{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} disapprove) to 49{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} (21{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} disapprove). Even the President himself told CNN’s Ed Henry in October 2009 that, “I think that we’ve restored America’s standing in the world, and that’s confirmed by polls.” That’s what Alan Greenspan would call “irrational exuberance.”

Recent Gallup data across 130 countries shows the image on U.S. leadership worldwide has declined for the third consecutive year. After reaching 49{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} in 2009, the worldwide median approval of U.S. leadership dropped to 47{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} in 2010, 46{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} in 2011, and down to 41{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} in 2012 (the most recent data currently available).


There may very well be a good reason why the President has spent the last week in sub-Saharan Africa – it’s the part of the world where the image of U.S. leadership is the most favorable (median approval rating of 70{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} in 2012 surveys). The “other” America’s 40{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} median approval rating, along with Asia’s 37{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} and Europe’s 36{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} media approval ratings all fall well below that of Africa’s.


In fact, the three African nations President Obama has visited on his first full-fledged African tour – Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania – also happen to be among the countries with the highest U.S. leadership approval rating. Coincidence?


But, it’s not all rosy in sub-Saharan Africa: it’s also the region where the U.S.’s standing has declined the most since President Obama’s first year in office. From 2009 to 2012, the approval in U.S. leadership has dropped 15 points (from 85{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} to 70{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) and is lower now than it was during President George W. Bush’s final year in office (73{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} in 2008).


Finally, when Air Force One departs today from Tanzania en route home, it should be noted that President Obama will be leaving a country where residents were more approving of the United States’ leadership during Bush’s final year in office (76{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} in 2008) than they were last year under Obama (70{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} in 2012).


Data from Gallup: http://www.gallup.com/poll/161201/leadership-earning-lower-marks-worldwide.aspx

Public Opinion Strategies